Two species of flying squirrels are found in North America: the northern and southern flying squirrel. To call them 'flying' squirrels is a bit of a misnomer, however, as the rodents actually use unique flaps of skin to glide among treetops. They are not capable of true flight like birds or bats. Though they are actually quite common throughout the United States, flying squirrels are rarely encountered by humans because they are nocturnal.
Northern and southern flying squirrels are very similar in appearance and size, and their bodies are covered in gray or brown fur. One way to distinguish between the species is to look at the color of their undersides. Bellies of northern flying squirrels typically appear gray while those of the southern flying squirrel are white. The rodents grow between 8 and 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) long, with their tails accounting for at least half of their length, and northern flying squirrels are about two inches longer than their southern cousins on average.
Flying squirrels have flat tails that function as brakes during flight and flaps of skin that extend from their ankles to their wrists that function similarly to parachutes. Additionally, they have large eyes that help them see in the dark.
Much overlap exists between southern and northern flying squirrel territories. Southern flying squirrels live as far south as Mexico and Honduras and as far north as southeastern Canada. Northern flying squirrels are found throughout Alaska and Canada and extend as far south as Tennessee and North Carolina. Southern flying squirrels prefer to nest in forests of seed-producing hardwood trees while northern flying squirrels live in deciduous and mixed forests. Both species build nests out of twigs, bark, feathers, fur, and leaves in abandoned bird nests, dying trees, and woodpecker holes.
Are flying squirrels known to enter homes or yards?
Flying squirrels often construct nests in ornamental and shade trees on lawns, in barns and sheds, and in attics. They may also take up residence in parks, golf courses, and other areas with constant human activity and sufficient vegetation, though they are seldom seen by people due to their nocturnal habits.
Do flying squirrels harm people or property?
As they are responsible for the spread of fungi spores and seeds of trees, flying squirrels are largely considered beneficial. However, they become problematic when they move onto lawns and into attics as they make a lot of sound at night. Additionally, their urine smells foul and can carry harmful bacteria. Flying squirrels also gnaw on walls, structural support beams, and wires.
Control and Safety
Property owners can make modifications to homes and yards to ensure the surrounding area is less favorable to flying squirrels. Close up all possible entry points to homes by covering small openings, sealing cracks, replacing broken window and door screens, and adding screens to vents and chimneys. Remove possible sources of food by fitting indoor and outdoor trash bins with tightly sealed lids. Finally, restrict flying squirrel access to roofs by trimming tree branches that hang over or close to rooftops.
Trapping and Removal
Though humans and flying squirrels are typically able to coexist peacefully, females become aggressive when they feel their territory is threatened. Untrained individuals should never attempt to approach the wild animals as interaction may result in injury. Contact the technicians at Wildlife Management Services for humane and safe removal of flying squirrels from private property.
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